At 63 years old, Ken Boothe has devoted 45 of those years to creating music. To date, he has recorded over 20 albums including a gospel cd, had several local and international number one hits, all while touring the globe. A recipient of the Prime Minister's Award in 2003 and the Order of Distinction for his contribution to Jamaican music, there is no doubt that Ken Booth is indeed a musical veteran.
As he welcomed me into his home, which he later explained doubles as a museum, my eyes take in the various portraits and mementos of H.I.M Haile Selassie I and photographs with fellow musicians, family and friends. Boothe didn't hesitate to take a stroll down memory lane, recalling how he was introduced to music. His mother used to sing around the house as she washed and cleaned. However, it was his older sister, the late Hyacinth Clover, who really inspired him to go into show business when she got him involved with the performing arts at eight years old. Boothe
officially began his recording career in the 1950s after meeting Stranjah Cole, who was already a recording artiste at the time. The two became a duet and wrote songs like 'Uno Dos', 'Hush Baby' and 'Moseniwah'. He later moved on to Studio One, where he released his first solo album, 'Mr. Rock Steady', for Clement "Coxsone" Dodd.
"Music takes you to places to express yourself and interact with people all over the world," Boothe stated when asked what keeps him going after all these years. . "It is the love of music and people, especially to see how people embrace our music. It makes me feel good about where we come from."
His passion for music resounded vehemently with every answer, a passion that could only be found in an old-timer who has invested so many years into something he loves. It was so humbling to hear him respond, "My greatest achievement is to see that my work has became a reality in the eyes and ears of people and even inspire people over the years." For those who were not aware, Ken Boothe also recorded a gospel album entitled "Door to Door".
Comparing the music industry of yesteryear to today, Boothe stated that there "more development but less love." He recalled being at Studio One with Bob Marley and Delroy Nelson, walking home together in the evenings after a long day of recording. "There wasn't much luxury back then, but you could feel the love and the love for music," he said.
Although dancehall seems to be the current face of Jamaican music, Boothe believes his the music of his time still finds favour with younger audiences. "The songs we sing, their parents played while they were growing up and even now, younger artistes are singing over our songs," he said. Regardless of the genre, he believes Jamaican music has developed a legacy over the years and he hopes this generation and those to come will take it to an even greater level. "I am for all times. Music is music, so I will always benefit." He expressed appreciation for younger artistes like Romain Virgo, Chino and I-Octane whose music he finds to be of good quality. He is also not averse to collaborating with young artistes as long as the complements his work. It is therefore no surprise that his son, Kenijah, is following in his father's footsteps.
In order to continue Jamaica's musical dominance, the industry needs "more togetherness – too much dog nyam dog. In every era you have it, but now it's too much," Boothe said. He advises young artistes to be very critical when signing contracts or have a lawyer deal with it to protect their best interests. "My generation wasn't as well-learned and so people used that to exploit us," he added, imploring the youth to go to school and "learn something."
With no plans to retire any time soon, the father of 11 joked, "I hope to come back as a song. Even after I've passed, I'll still be alive."